Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Since nothing interesting has been going on lately, I've decided to fill you in on another one of my many myriad geeky interests. Note: Because my blog only allows me narrow margins without knocking everything out of whack (anybody who knows how to fix this, please tell me!), several images will simply be linked to instead of overtly shown.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937)

H. P. Lovecraft was a sci-fi/horror author in the 1910's, '20s, and '30s. Although in his lifetime he never got published very much outside of pulp magazines - in fact, his work is still osmewhat obscure - he is an incredibly influential figure in the world of fiction. before we talk about his wonderful, wonderful monsters, here's a short discussion on the man himself.

H. P. Lovecraft had a nasty childhood, an abusive mother, and died in his forties due to complications brought on by malnutrition (he lived like a bachelor, and didn't eat right). Obviously, he wasn't exactly the most cheerful person. In fact, upon reading some of his letters (yes, even his personal correspondence got published), a basic list of what he hated can very easily be compiled:

Western Culture
Non-white people
White people
People who want to be friends
His own appearance
Happy Fiction

Likewise, a list of what H. P. Lovecraft loved can also be summed up:

World-destroying monsters.

See what I mean?

Now, as a writer, Lovecraft wasn't perfect - to be honest, he suffered from a terminal case of Adjectivitis, and his stories were often composed primarily of build-up with a very weak climax. However, that is not what he is remembered for. Lovecraft is remembered for his imagination.

Try to put yourself in the 1910-1930 mindset. In all of the science fiction that was available, just about the strangest, most foreign thing that you could possibly think of were the martians from War of the Worlds. And then you read a story that describes a beast somewhat like this:


That's Cthulhu, Lovecraft's most famous monster, and incidentally the star of The Call of Cthulhu, which is also his most famous story. Cthulhu is one of the "Elder Beings," a race of demon/alien/gods that roamed the earth billions of years before the first humans climbed out of the muck. Cthulhu itself sleeps under the submerged city of R'yleh, and will one day awaken to drive all men insane and end the world. There is a cult dedicated to awakening the Beast, and an investigation of this group culminating in a premature yet temporary revival of Cthulhu is the plot of the story.

He's big.

Does the idea of an evil-cult-out-to-reawaken/release-ancient-apocalypse-beast-with-tentacles sound familiar to you?

Like, oh, 25% of all science fiction or horror?

That is how influential Lovecraft's fiction was. His descriptions of the myriad monsters almost always left details to the imagination, but Cthulhu is one of the most concretely-described, mainly because of an idol of the demon that's central to the story's plot. This image is pretty ismilar to the rough (and sloppy) sketch that Lovecraft himself drew of the idol.
The Idol

Cthulhu is very popular. See that little video game picture at the beginning of this post? Those are from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (the Cthulhu enemies' names were swapped with another's in the American version, but the Japanese version kept them intact). Cthulhu also appeared in a Ghostbusters episode, titled Collect Call of Cthulhu:

He has also starred in a line of plush toys:

And an upcoming action figure:

The perfect Christmas Present

Now, obviously, there were more monsters than Cthulhu in Lovecraft's stories. The Shoggoths were mounds of eyes and tentacles, The Deep Ones were fishmen mutants that worshipped Dagon, there was a radioactive demon from a meteor, a fungus vampire beneath a house, the childbearing Shub-Niggurath, the chaotic Nyarlathotep, and Yog-Sothoth's two half-human children, which are so horrific in design that nobody seems to want to draw them. Cthulhu is actually one of the least-chaotic of all of the monster designs, as evidenced by such creatures as this "Elder Thing:"

And finally, because no discussion of Lovecraft can be complete without it, here is a picture of a member of the Great Race of Yith, which was far more advanced and intelligent than humans until they were wiped out by hyper-evolved beetles:

I love this author.

(EDIT) I am also going to add this - several artists' interpretation sof Yog-Sothot. Yog was never described, but his second "son" "looked more like him." Basically, all of these pictures are equally valid in their own way - although nothing any less chaotic would fit the beast WARNING: These are disturbing.


I can't believe that I forgot to mention this. Ever hear of the "Necronomicron?" You know the random book-of-the-dead thing that's used in nearly every horror movie ever made? Well, GUESS WHO INVENTED IT?

Hint: It's not the exploding ninja.

Lovecraft's rendition of the book was that it was compiled/written by the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, and contains info on all of the different ancient things that are the focus of Lovecraft's stories. The book itself doesn't have any magical powers, and in fact there are plenty of copies in different libraries - but it's the TEXT that's important.

And there you have it.
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